Teachers celebrate association’s long, successful history; focus on the future
More than 400 educators from across the state gathered at the Mohegan Sun Convention Center this past weekend to celebrate the Connecticut Education Association’s 175th year of advocating for students, teachers, and public education.
“I couldn’t be any prouder to be leading our organization on its path forward, following the trailblazers who came before us,” said CEA President Kate Dias. “I am so excited to be part of this celebration of the important work teachers do every day. Because of our teachers, every profession is possible.”
“We are so grateful for the opportunity to take on this legacy of advocacy, leading CEA and our dedicated, exemplary educators into the future,” said CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey.
In 1848, 80 educators gathered in Meriden for the first annual Representative Assembly meeting, creating the Connecticut State Teachers Association (CSTA), whose mission was improving working and learning conditions in public schools. CSTA was later renamed the Connecticut Education Association.
“As we move forward, we take with us the contributions of all those who came before us, and we look forward to engaging new members in more and more of the good work of supporting public education,” added Dias.
In the early years, teacher salaries were inequitable, with male educators paid more than double what their female colleagues earned. Teachers were also subject to harsh rules that applied both inside and outside the classroom, governing everything from what they wore (for women, no pants) to whether they could marry or become pregnant.
“Thanks to CEA’s strong advocacy, these and other archaic rules have been dropped, and so much has changed—and continues to change—for the better,” said Lisa Cordova, CREC teacher and local association president.
“When teachers have a need, CEA is always there for us,” said Lil Perone, Greenwich teacher and local association president.
From the beginning, academic freedom for teachers was a concern of the association. That concern is as relevant today as it was in the 1800s.
“Thanks to CEA’s advocacy, our learning environments continue to improve in ways that bring us closer to ensuring all children have the high-quality education that they are entitled to—and that makes the world a better place,” said Avon teacher and local association president Jon Moss.
Over nearly two centuries, CEA has worked with lawmakers to elevate the teaching profession and improve public education, promoting the need for equity, additional school funding, higher wages, and more. CEA used its collective voice to get good laws passed to ensure a top-notch public education system in Connecticut.
“We appreciate all CEA has done for the past 175 years, working to ensure teachers have what we need so that we can give every student what they need to be successful,” said Katy Gale, Darien teacher.
“CEA ensures that teachers have a voice at the table and opportunities to share our classroom concerns with legislators to help get good laws passed that improve public education in our state,” said Gail Jorden, Bloomfield teacher and local association president.
Among the crucial laws CEA supported were those that prohibited pay discrimination based on sex, provided aid to schools, improved the teacher retirement system, allowed teachers to negotiate with boards of education, prohibited pregnant teachers from being fired, required contract disputes to be decided by an arbitrator, ended a ban on teachers serving in public office, guaranteed the right to negotiate working hours, allowed the reemployment of retired teachers, strengthened children’s safety and made gun laws tougher, expanded preK opportunities, banned dual teaching, increased the number of mental health professionals in schools, and more.
“When CEA pushed for the 1986 Teacher Enhancement Act, they ensured that teachers had salaries that allowed us to support our families,” said Kristen Basiaga, Glastonbury teacher and local association president.
“I am so proud to be a CEA member and grateful for the teachers who came before us and fought for our salaries and benefits,” said Amy Farrior, Marlborough teacher and local association president. “CEA is an amazing organization, and I appreciate all that they have done for me, the teachers before me, and future teachers. We are stronger together.”
CEA’s long, rich history has been defined by core values that the association continues to embrace—chief among them respect for the teaching profession and a belief that every child deserves a safe, well-resourced classroom and a quality public education.
“Teaching has gotten harder through the decades, and while the students, teachers, and policymakers change, the underlying issues surrounding public education remain constant,” said Dias. “We must all continue to advocate for what’s right on the state and local levels, and that includes additional public school funding and support to ensure a brighter future for all of us.”
“CEA is always there for early educators, helping us through the most challenging times of our careers and providing us with supports, workshops, and everything we need to succeed,” said Katie D’Agostina, CREC teacher.
“It’s an honor to be part of an organization that’s been advocating for teachers for 175 years. CEA has come a long way, and it will be exciting to see how it moves into the future advocating for the teachers of today and tomorrow,” said K.C. Petruzzi, Granby teacher and local association president.
CEA and its members will continue celebrating 175 years of success, strength, and solidarity with special events throughout the year.